RACA travelled to Teesside with an ever-growing injury list, Dan Robinson, Will Forsyth & Steven Mundy all missing from the squad that travelled to Tow Law. When Sam Moore jarred his knee in the warm up, the Albion faithful had the feeling it was going to be a long afternoon. The Ancients had inflicted Ryton’s first home league defeat of the season in October & were themselves unbeaten at home in seventeen previous league games this season, & clearly had intentions of promotion.
On a surprisingly dry pitch in windy conditions, it was a cagey opening few minutes as both sides looked to feel each other out & it wasn’t until the 14th minute when there was an incident of note when Albion stopper Conor Gillespie had to make a routine save from an Anthony Hume grasscutter from distance. The shot did at least seem to inspire the hosts who were first to wake up from the slumber of the opening period. There was alarm in the Albion defence on 18 minutes when Andy Upperton was dispossessed by Hume who raced forward & spotting teammate Matthew Bell unmarked in the box, played a short pass to him, but it was too far in front of Bell who could only make minimal contact on the ball & Gillespie was able to gather safely.
Albion had to wait until the 20th minute for their first shot, when Phil Hodges surged into the Norton half only to blaze his effort over David Knight’s bar. Both sides were playing intricate football along the decent surface but moves were breaking down in the final third. That was until the 28th minute when Norton were awarded a free kick on the edge of the box which John Seaton struck through a wall of players, the ball ending up in the net to claims of offside from the Ryton players. It looked as if Seaton’s shot had averted everyone but it transpired that HUME had got the last touch & Norton were 1-0 up. The hosts almost extended their lead on 35 minutes when Harrison Davies struck a shot which Gillespie bundled onto his post, the ball bouncing kindly for the keeper rolling back into his arms when it could so easily have rolled into the net.
Albion made their most incisive move of the match three minutes later when Josh Holland knocked over a pinpoint accurate cross from the left wing to Ryan Burnyeat who was the late replacement for the injured Moore. The youngster got the slightest of touches & it looked like a certain equalizer, but Knight somehow managed to stop the ball from crossing his goal-line. Straight up at the other end, Bell caught Hodges on the ball in two minds & tried to lob the advancing Gillespie. The ball looked destined for the net, but the Albion goalie leapt up acrobatically to tip the ball over for a corner. Gillespie’s reprieve was short lived however as from the corner, Jack PROCTOR headed in off the post & Norton were well on their way to three points.
The final chance of the first half fell to Albion when Holland fired in another great cross, this time to Craig Barker, but his body was just at the wrong angle to make full contact with the ball, & his header didn’t have enough venom to trouble Knight too much. A bright end to a disappointing half for Ryton & the teams went in to the interval with the score of
NASA 2 RACA 0
Hume was the first to test Gillespie in the second half following a move involving him & Davies which ended with the keeper smothering a low drive from distance. Like the opening period of the first half, Albion were containing Norton in the second period’s early exchanges & Leigh Shickle launched a 55th minute free kick directly at Knight, which the Norton man had to gather cleanly with Burnyeat bearing down on him. David Backhouse was next to try his luck when after beating two NASA defenders, he fired in a curling shot that thankfully for Knight swung just wide as Barker was right on the premises should the keeper have made an error. Following a period of substitutions being made, Norton put the game to bed on 72 minutes when SEATON found himself completely unmarked after Hume had fed him the ball & he had the simple task of tapping the ball past Gillespie. As the Norton players celebrated, a passing ice cream van right on cue played ‘The Entertainer’ but there was little to entertain the Albion fans in attendance. As the game rolled into the last ten minutes there were flashes of some of the football that has been seen this term, Hodges in particular waltzing past several home players on more than one occasion. Backhouse had a half chance for a consolation in the 81st minute when at the end of a decent move from the visitors, he shot from distance when he perhaps could have advanced further before shooting having shaken off his marker. As it was his effort trundled wide & it was left to Norton to add insult to injury with two late goals. Sub Gary MITCHELL spun round in the box to wallop the ball into the net, having fluffed his lines in an identical situation a minute earlier, then a looping header from HUME on 84 minutes got his second & Norton’s fifth to replicate the score last season in the corresponding fixture.
Albion’s away day woes continue with just a solitary draw from the last eight league & cup games on the road, while Norton consolidate second place & are sitting pretty with Washington’s surprise loss at Tow Law adding to a good day at the office.
NORTON- Knight, O’Brien, Farrington, Proctor, Mulligan, Laing, Davies (Bligh 72), Seaton, Hume, Charlton (Mitchell 65), Bell. Subs not used- Andrews, Hawkins, Smith.
ALBION – Gillespie, P Robinson, Shickle (L Barker 73), Hodges, Turnbull, Chrostowski, Holland, Backhouse (Emmerson 85), Burnyeat, Upperton (McMeekin 65), C Barker.
REFEREE – Jeff Marr